I have a little confession to make. I hate working in libraries. I keep thinking I never work at the library because I need my coffee and am more comfortable either at my home desk or my work desk or at a coffee shop... and while that's partly it, it isn't all. Every time I *do* go to the library, it ends badly.
I committed to a study afternoon with Rory yesterday and when she suggested we go to the Art and Architecture library, I agreed. It's the prettiest library in town, has huge tables, and is rarely packed. But then we got there and sat down to work and I couldn't do it. Granted, yesterday was January 20, so I was already raging on the inside for obvious political reasons, but all the feelings of unease I tend to feel at libraries descended upon me at the same time. It's just so quiet in libraries that I can't cope. I love quiet, but I hate unnatural, imposed silence. It makes me hyper aware of every single thing not only around me but that I do myself... and as a result, my brain can't actually focus on anything else. It's a lot like sensory overload... but out of silence instead of excess noise or light. Thank you, anxiety, for messing things up in every direction.
So I left the library after an hour yesterday, and I don't think I'll be back anytime soon. Still though, it made me think... how common is this amongst academics? We're supposed to love libraries (and I do! I love everything about them until I need to sit down and be productive in them) and live at the library and all that jazz, but we're also a hyper-anxious group of people! I got a message almost as soon as I posted a few of these thoughts on tumblr yesterday, expressing the same feelings, and so I've decided to post this here, too.
Who else feels the same?
I'm too angry to accomplish much of anything today, but here's a shot from one of my favorite streets in Geneva.
One of the things that seems to happen when you move abroad as an American is that you suddenly crave these random things that you didn't frequently have back in the States. I rarely ate hamburgers when I was younger, but then fast forward to my move to Geneva six years ago, and I suddenly started to miss them. I've been on the hunt for good burgers ever since. I was constrained to veggie burgers for a long time, but the game changed after my doctor ordered me to start eating beef again.
Tonight, A and I decided to try someplace new and ended up at The Hamburger Foundation. Their trucks are unmissable if you live in Geneva, but as they only offer three different types of basic beef burgers (hamburgers, cheese burgers, and bacon cheese burgers), I couldn't really try them until now.
We first walked to their truck in the Parc des Bastions as they were there for Swiss National Day (Happy Swiss National Day!), but as the queue was at least fifty people long, we ended up walking across town to their restaurant in the Paquis instead. The restaurant was packed and we managed to arrive right after a tour group who was being told by their guide that they were at "one of the ten best burger places in the world," but we still got a table and didn't have to wait long.
While I wouldn't know about it being one of the ten best in the world, our THF hamburgers were some of the best we've had in Geneva. The meat was good (though still not as good as Inglewood, according to A), the cheese was plenty, and the burgers were well but simply garnished. I'd say where THF won though was with its presentation and with its fries. I love my fries fat, but THF managed to make theirs both skinny and meaty at the same time. They also served a simple but tasty salad to start, which is always a nice touch with burgers. We'll likely be back in the future (though maybe to one of the trucks as the restaurant is a bit out of our way).
Before A and I started dating last year, he wrote a blog post imagining what an opera about different post-structuralist philosophers would be like, referring to Derrida and Butler and punny arias like "Perform thy gender, love." I found this post in the days after we first met, and it confirmed what I suspected after that first meeting – that I'd finally met someone who loved opera, had a sense of humor about it, and was consequently oddly and remarkably well-suited to my person. In other words, it confirmed that I'd met the perfect man (calm rationality and my exasperation with men be damned!)! Naturally, thanks to the extreme joy caused by the revelation that he liked opera so much he could intelligently joke about it, I went on to refer to him almost exclusively as "Post-structuralist Opera Boy" when talking about him to my friends for weeks afterwards.
Then, on our first two dates, A went on and on about how much he likes opera and classical music, rambling to the point where he felt the need to apologize. He was a bit embarrassed, but I was so pleased by his enthusiasm that it was eventually what drove me over the edge and caused me to confess my feelings for him.
So, naturally, opera has played an important role in our dating life ever since we got together. I took A to an opera themed restaurant for his birthday, and he me to one on mine. We went to the opera together for the first time in October, while he was away in York and I was still stuck in Geneva, simultaneously attending the Met's live screening of Il Trovatore and communicating over whatsapp. We then went to an operetta for New Year's and several other – both traditional and satirical – productions by his favorite, local opera company, L'avant-scène opéra.
Then, last night, we went to see the Geneva production of Falstaff. We'd bought the tickets a couple of months before, taking advantage of their student offers, and it was our first "big" opera outing together. It was also our first time at the Opéra des Nations, the new, wooden theater where the Grand Théâtre de Genève is housing its productions while they renovate their Place de Neuve theater in the center of the city.
The new structure is located right in front of the U.N. and is extremely charming. We picnicked on the steps of an old building located in the same park before going in to our seats, and it made it seem like an even more summery experience. The wooden theater alone makes it feel seasonal – even though the theater will stand year round – and I was reminded of both childhood visits to the Ravinia Festival and to outings listening to operatic concerts on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (where hilariously, my family summered before my mom moved to the real Geneva).
Falstaff itself was wonderful, oddly yet appropriately aesthetically marrying what A identified as German Expressionism to Shakespeare's stories. I'd neither heard nor seen Falstaff performed and have only studied and seen Henry IV, Parts I & II (in Stratford in 2014) and not The Merry Wives of Windsor, so it was nice to see and hear an opera I wasn't very familiar with. A likes to read plays before seeing them and listen to operas to be prepared, but if it isn't for the sake of study, I sometimes like to go in without knowing what to expect. We spend so much time reading and rereading texts, watching and rewatching films and shows, and analyzing them all to death for study that the element of surprise is so welcome when possible. It helps me draw the fine line between work and play, and it's why I let myself be carried away by the storytelling when I read or watch things for fun. I was able to do just that with Falstaff. It was entertaining, and as a bonus, the opera also emphasized the folly of men and played up the power of women, so I was extremely happy with the whole.
I've been meaning to make a little Geneva guide of my favorite places both on here and on tumblr for a while now, so I'm taking advantage of the fact that one of our good tumblr friends is coming (tomorrow!) to visit to push myself and finally post!
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.